SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 63
July 8, 2004

PHYSICISTS SPEAK UP FOR MORDECHAI VANUNU

Two eminent nuclear physicists have filed sworn declarations in support of a petition by Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu asking Israel's High Court of Justice to overturn travel and other restrictions that were imposed on Vanunu by the Israeli government following his release this year from an 18 year jail sentence.

The nominal intent of the restrictions is to prevent Vanunu from disclosing any additional secrets about the unacknowledged Israeli nuclear weapons program that he described to the press two decades ago in violation of Israeli law. But many observers see the restrictions as a new punitive measure directed at Vanunu.

British physicist Frank Barnaby, who first questioned Vanunu on behalf of the London Sunday Times in 1986 about his disclosures, said that Vanunu had a limited grasp of nuclear weapons technology in the first place and that his information about Israel's nuclear program was now likely to be obsolete in any case.

"His knowledge of the nuclear physics and engineering was limited to an elementary grasp of the subjects," Barnaby wrote. "He had precisely the sort of knowledge that you would expect a technician to have and no more."

"The knowledge that Vanunu had about Israel's nuclear weapons, about the operations at Dimona [an Israeli nuclear facility], and about security at Dimona could not be of any value to anyone today. He left Dimona in October 1985 and the design of today's Israeli nuclear weapons will have been considerably changed since then," Barnaby argued.

See Dr. Barnaby's June 14 statement here:

Nobel laureate and Manhattan Project veteran Joseph Rotblat urged the Israeli Court not to be swayed by exaggerated secrecy claims.

"I would suggest that you would hardly find one physicist outside Israel who believes that Mordechai Vanunu, whether or not in 1986 he neglected to mention this or that detail, constitutes any further significant threat to anyone's security," Rotblat wrote.

See Prof. Rotblat's June 14 statement here:

Mordechai Vanunu is represented in this matter by Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (www.acri.org.il).

In response to Vanunu's pending petition, Israeli government officials this week told the Court that Vanunu still possesses secret knowledge that has not previously been disclosed, as well as the motivation to release it.

The High Court of Israel will hold a hearing on the matter on Sunday, July 11.

Mordechai Vanunu was interviewed after his release from prison by Israeli journalist and author Yael Lotan in a remarkable BBC documentary that was produced by Olenka Frenkiel and broadcast May 30.


WHITE HOUSE WARNS AGAINST NEW LIMITS TO PATRIOT ACT

The White House yesterday warned the House of Representatives against enacting any legislation that would limit the applicability of the USA Patriot Act.

"If legislation were presented to the President that includes any provision that forces the courts to allow notice to criminal suspects before a search warrant is executed, the President's senior advisors would recommend that the President veto the bill," the White House said in a statement on the pending Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Act.

"If any other amendment that would weaken the USA PATRIOT Act were adopted and presented to the President for his signature, the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto."

See the July 7 White House statement here:

Rep. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) was set to introduce an amendment today "to reinstate legal standards for investigations which were in place for library and bookstore records before the passage of the USA Patriot Act."


ADDENDUM REGARDING THE ARMY'S "ON POINT" STUDY

In the Secrecy News story yesterday about the online version of the Army's "On Point" study of the Iraq war that cannot be normally printed, copied or saved, we were remiss not to have included an Army viewpoint or explanation regarding the unusual formatting of the document. Here it is.

The Army concern was that the document contained non-governmental materials including graphics and photos which might be copyrighted, said Dan French, a spokesman for the Center for Army Lessons Learned said.

"We have had some unscrupulous individuals who are taking our products and selling them on CD, even on Amazon.com," he noted.

If that were to happen with the "On Point" report, the spokesman said, this might entail a violation of the original copyright. Once the appropriate permissions are obtained, he said, the document would be made available without the current restrictions, perhaps by the end of the month.

Thanks to several Secrecy News readers, more adept than I, who proposed a variety of ways that the existing Army format restrictions could be overcome without much difficulty.


COURT BLOCKS PUBLICATION OF CIA MEMOIR

A federal court yesterday accepted the Central Intelligence Agency's argument that a former CIA employee cannot publish her memoir because the Agency says it contains classified information.

The former employee, who sued the CIA under the pseudonym Wendy Lee, argued that the CIA had unlawfully imposed a prior restraint upon her speech by improperly classifying her memoir. The CIA insisted that the classification decisions were justified.

The Court yielded entirely to the CIA.

"The information in Lee's memoir was properly classified, and even if it were not, it is controlled by the secrecy agreement to which Lee is a party," wrote Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. "Lee therefore has no First Amendment right to either publish the information or make it available to her counsel."

The last point is particularly noteworthy. Ms. Lee was not entitled to the full benefit of counsel because her attorney was not granted access to the contested material by CIA.

It is "another example of the Executive Branch getting whatever it wants in national security cases," said Mark S. Zaid, who represents Lee. "Why, one must ask, can 'Anonymous' write a critical book about the CIA while still working there, but a former employee cannot?"

("Anonymous," whose actual name was reported by Jason Vest in the Boston Phoenix last week, is author of the widely publicized book "Imperial Hubris.")

See the July 7 decision in Wendy Lee v. Central Intelligence Agency here:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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